I may be a little weird (aren’t we all?), but I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, and I actually love reading essays. I don’t usually make the time to sit down with a magazine to read the articles, but it seems different to me if they are collected in a book format. I also find essay anthologies to be appealing because I can just skim (or skip) the ones I’m not particularly interested in and linger over the ones I like. And if I need to put it down and walk away for a while, it’s easy to come back to later.
If you are participating in the Read Harder 2018 Challenge, task #22 read an essay anthology, and here are some of my favorites:
“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin is a classic and is just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1963. I love reading and listening to James Baldwin. I have seen interviews with him that just floored me. It’s a small book of a letters to Baldwin’s nephew and an essay on America’s “racial nightmare.”
“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character” by Richard Feynman is another of my all-time favorites. A “curious character” is the perfect way to describe Feynman. He had such a passion for learning, whether it was for learning to play the bongos or safe cracking. The fact that he was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist is almost secondary.
“Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” by Gloria Steinem was originally written in 1983, but it seems to be timeless. This collection includes her famous (or is it infamous?) essay about being a Playboy Bunny as a young journalist, and how that affected her later career. This is such a wonderfully diverse mix of essays, including an ode to her mother that is so stirring.
“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed is more advice column than essay. Or maybe it’s both. Working at a library, I don’t actually BUY many books, but this is an exception. She approaches some extremely difficult topics with such compassion, but at the same time she can be stern in her advice. She has truly done something unique here.
“A Slip of the Keyboard” by Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, definitely deserves to be in this list. His books are so satirical and biting (not to mention hilarious) and his nonfiction is no less. We lost him much too soon to complications of Alzheimer’s, and he did a lot to spur the conversation of the “good death” in the light of his illness. But there is so much more here than that!
Zadie Smith, the keynote speaker for this year’s Unbound Book Festival, has a new book of essays out that I can’t wait to read called “Feel Free.” This collection is arranged into five sections — In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf and Feel Free — and covers topics as varied as social media, libraries and global warming.
There are a lot of brand new books of essays that have either just come out or will be coming out soon. Here is a list in our catalog for even more!